"To this day, I can't believe I was so brazen to think I could pull off the Jesus role." Willem Dafoe
Oscar nominated actor who gained notice for playing the controversial role of Jesus in Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Willem Dafoe received critical acclaim while portraying Sgt. Elias in Oliver Stone's Platoon (1986) and for playing Max Schrek in Shadow of the Vampire (2000). The character actor was also widely recognized for his part in such films as Light Sleeper (1992), Clear and Present Danger (1994), Tom & Viv (1994), The English Patient (1996), Speed 2 (1997) and Spider-Man (2002 and 2004). His recent films included The Aviator, Ripley Under Ground, and xXx: State of the Union.
As for his private life, since 1977 Dafoe had been involved with theater director and actress Elizabeth LeCompte (also member and director of the Wooster Group). They have one son. Currently, the 50-year-old, 5' 9½" tall Dafoe is dating Italian director Giada.
Childhood and Family:
"I don't think people want to see me as a regular guy. Besides, I'm a regular guy in real life. I guess I just want to be reckless in my work." Willem Dafoe
On July 22, 1955, William Dafoe Jr. was born in Appleton, Wisconsin. The seventh of eight children to father Willem Dafoe (doctor), William Dafoe Jr. has five sisters and two brothers.
William Dafoe Jr. was known as Billy while attending the Einstein Junior High School in Appleton, Wisconsin and received the nickname Willem while studying at the Appleton East High School. Having been interested in acting since his early years, Willem continued studying Drama at the University of Wisconsin, but later dropped out.
Willem is a vegetarian, regularly practices yoga and co-owns a restaurant with Platoon costar actor John C. McGinley. He also has a son named Jack (born in 1982), from his former long-time relationship with director and actress Elizabeth LeCompte (born April 28, 1944).
Shadow Of The Vampire
"Casting people feel that they have to get someone who looks a certain way, and I think that jury is still out whether people find me attractive or not." Willem Dafoe
Starting his acting stint in such university productions as "The Devils" and "Sleeping Beauty," Dafoe left college to join an experimental community theater called Theater X. With them, he performed in "Offending the Audience," "Phaedre" and "Razor Blades" while touring around the United States and Europe for four years. In 1977, Dafoe headed to New York to sign up with the advanced theater company Wooster Group, in which he debuted with the "Nayatt School" production.
Dafoe would first be seen in Michael Cimino's western drama Heaven's Gate (1980, starring Kris Kristofferson and Christopher Walken), playing a role that was later cut from the screen. He rebounded two years later with his initial leading role as one in a group of reckless bikers in Kathryn Bigelow and Monty Montgomery's drama The Loveless (costarring J. Don Ferguson and Liz Gans).
Following his debut performance, Dafoe played a bit part in Tony Scott's romantic horror The Hunger (1983) and Simon Nuchtern's drama New York Nights (1984). He also starred in John Mark Robinson's action comedy Roadhouse 66 (opposite Judge Reinhold) and Walter Hill's romantic action Streets of Fire (both in 1984, with Michael Paré and Diane Lane).
His portrayal of master counterfeiter Rick Masters in William Friedkin's adaptation of Gerald Petievich's novel, the crime action To Live and Die in L.A. (1985, opposite William L. Petersen), attracted filmmaker Oliver Stone's attention. He later teamed Dafoe with Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger in his Vietnam War film Platoon in 1986. Brilliantly portraying the insouciant, pot-smoking Sgt. Elias Grodin, Dafoe received applause and earned his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
In 1988, Dafoe garnered mixed reviews for portraying Jesus in Martin Scorsese's controversial film about the last days of Jesus Christ, based on Nikos Kazantzakis' book, The Last Temptation of Christ. Meanwhile, he teamed with Gregory Hines as plain clothes U.S. military policemen on duty in wartime Saigon in Christopher Crowe's Off Limits and with Gene Hackman as 1964 FBI agents in Alan Parker's Mississippi Burning. The following year, Dafoe became former Greek Olympic boxer Salamo Arouch, who was captured by Nazis during WW II, in Robert M. Young's fact-based Triumph of the Spirit. He also reunited with Oliver Stone in his biopic Born on the Fourth of July, a film inspired by Ron Kovic, a former Vietnam Marine turned well-known anti-war activist.
Entering the 1990s, Dafoe starred as psycho Bobby Peru in David Lynch's film version of Barry Gifford's novel, Wild at Heart (1990, alongside Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern) and as cynical veteran bombardier Cole in John Milius' war film, inspired by Stephen Coonts' novel, Flight of the Intruder (1991, with Danny Glover). He also became a small southwestern town sheriff named Ray Dolezal in Roger Donaldson's crime drama White Sands (1992). In addition, Dafoe branched out to modeling and briefly modeled for a 1990 Prada printed ad.
Dafoe scored a Sant Jordi Award for Best Foreign Actor after portraying a 40-year-old drug runner who suffers from insomnia, John LeTour, in Paul Schrader's gently haunting drama Light Sleeper (1992, costarring Susan Sarandon and Dana Delany). In the next year, Dafoe became Madonna's lawyer in Uli Edel's Body of Evidence and flew to Germany to star in Wim Wenders' sci-fi action Far Away, So Close! (a.k.a. In weiter Ferne, so nah!).
Along with legend Harrison Ford, Dafoe starred as "moral" soldier of fortune John Clark in the screen version of Tom Clancy's best-selling novel, Phillip Noyce's Oscar nominated and smash hit Clear and Present Danger (1994). In that same year, Brian Gilbert cast him as American-born British poet T S Eliot in his adaptation of Michael Hastings' play Tom & Viv (opposite Miranda Richardson). He also appeared in Europe as a manipulative narrator in Anna Maria Tatò's adaptation of Claude-Prosper de Jolyot Crebillon's novel, The Night and the Moment (1995), and as American loner Axel Heyst in Mark Peploe's Victory.
In 1996, Dafoe was involved in an Oscar winning movie, the epic drama based on Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel, Anthony Minghella's The English Patient (playing mercenary Caravaggio, also starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche). Afterwards, he costarred with Sandra Bullock and Jason Patric in Jan de Bont's poorly accepted 1997 sequel of Speed, Speed 2: Cruise Control, and became Nick Nolte's brother in the screen version of Russell Banks' novel, Paul Schrader's highly praised Affliction. He also returned to stage, playing character Yank in Eugene O'Neill's "The Hairy Ape" and in the Wooster Group's production of "North Atlantic."
At the end of the 1990s, filmgoers watched Defoe star in Abel Ferrara's film, inspired by William Gibson's short story, New Rose Hotel (with Christopher Walken) and in Troy Duffy's rarely seen crime action The Boondock Saints (playing FBI agent Paul Smecker, alongside Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus). He also became an anthropologist in Paul Auster's Lulu on the Bridge and played a creepy gas station attendant in David Cronenberg's sci-fi eXistenZ (opposite Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jude Law).
In the new millennium, another Oscar nomination knocked when Dafoe portrayed reclusive Max Schreck, costarring with John Malkovich, in E. Elias Merhige's classic horror Shadow of the Vampire. Meanwhile, he also played Det. Donald Kimball in the film version of Bret Easton Ellis' novel, Mary Harron's American Psycho (starring Christian Bale) and was cast as prisoner Earl Copen in Steve Buscemi's adaptation of Edward Bunker's novel, Animal Factory (alongside Edward Furlong).
Dafoe played roles in such films as Bullfighter (2000, as a priest), Edges of the Lord (2001, as a priest again) and Pavilion of Women (also in 2001, as an American missionary) before landing the villainous role of the Green Goblin/Norman Osborn in Sam Raimi's version of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's popular comic book Spider-Man (starring Tobey Maguire). Dafoe later reprised his role in its second installment in 2004, Spider-Man 2.
On stage, Dafoe costarred with Frances McDormand in "To You, the Birdie!," a stage adaptation of Wooster Group's "Phedre." While on the big screen, he was seen as Bob Crane's accused murderer in Autofocus and as a cartel kingpin in Once Upon A Time In Mexico (both in 2003). Meanwhile, he also lent his voice to the animation movies Finding Nemo and Camel Cricket City (both in 2003) as well as in James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing (2004).
More recent, Dafoe played a traveling leader in Paul McGuigan's version of Barry Unsworth's novel Reckoning, Robert Redford's kidnapper in The Clearing, and alongside Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Besides playing a supporting role in Martin Scorsese's acclaimed film The Aviator, Dafoe starred in such 2005 films as Roger Spottiswoode's Ripley Under Ground, Tim Hunter's Control, Lars von Trier's Manderlay and Lee Tamahori's xXx: State of the Union.
As for his upcoming film projects, Dafoe is scheduled to star in Giada Colagrande's romantic drama, Before It Had a Name (he also co-wrote), and in the romantic Paris, je t'aime.
"I refuse to say that Clear and Present Danger is any less artful than Last Temptation. I only do work that for some reason I'm excited or curious about. I've been around long enough that I don't do anything for the money or for the nice trailer or for the perk of being in a big movie. Everything has its price." Willem Dafoe